Mr. Movie

Thanks to Battelle, 'The Cove' gets another Tri-City run

The Oscar-winning documentary, The Cove gets a second Tri-Cities run with a one-night showing at the Battelle Film Club's bi-weekly meet-up at the Battelle Auditorium.

By the way, some of you may not know that Battelle Film Club films are open to everyone, not just film club members.

The Cove did a one week run at the Carmike 12 a year and a half ago. Since it hadn’t won the best documentary Oscar yet, not a lot of people saw it. Club members think the film needs one more shot.

The Cove is a fascinating, rip-a-page-out-of-James-Bond, real-life spy story that starts with Ric O’Barry. He says dolphins are abused in most parts of the world.

O’Barry blames himself for dolphin mania. He captured and trained five dolphins to play the character Flipper on the hugely popular 1960s TV show Flipper. His experience on the show and the death of his favorite dolphin led him to the conclusion that dolphins ought not to be in captivity.

Since then O’Barry has dedicated his life to setting them free.

His efforts have been noticed but not all that successful. Here’s why. Dolphins are great entertainers and a huge draw at theme parks. Some places have tanks where you can drop wads of cash and swim with the personable creatures for an hour or so.

After a swim you can hit the gift shop, pick up a cute dolphin stuffed animal or some such memento, take your video home to impress friends and go on with your merry life.

That’s just part of what O’Barry considers abuse. As part of his dolphin penance O’Barry got director Louis Psihoyos and some activists to travel to Taiji, Japan to unveil extreme abuse by Japanese fishermen. What happens there is his biggest concern.

Every year Japanese fishermen herd pods of dolphins into a small, hidden cove. Young dolphins are captured and sent to water parks or sold to researchers. They are a valuable commodity.

The rest are speared and bludgeoned to death — allegedly for food.

Using undercover spy techniques that would impress the CIA, infrared cameras for night shots and cameras hidden in strategic locations, O’Barry, Psihoyos and their group show you the brutality of the slaughter. It is quite graphic.

Psihoyos’ documentary says dolphins — being quite high on the food chain — are mercury magnets. The toxic chemical element is dangerous to humans. Kids at a local school eat the meat.

Part of the documentary’s suspense has to do with O’Barry’s intense relationship with the locals. They do not want him interfering with the city’s proverbial cash cow.

That leads O’Barry and Psihoyos’ point. Because of their intelligence, dolphins — like whales — ought to be protected from such treatment. What happens to those dolphins is inhumane. Animal activists and conservationists agree.

It does seem pointless and it is ugly.

On the other hand, the film is not without controversy. Critics have accused Psihoyos and O’Barry of adding CGI to make the killing more gruesome. These same critics criticize them for giving human characteristics to an animal.

In their book, animals are animals.

It’s a valid question. Should we be assigning human characteristics to animals? Is that fair to them? In response, O’Barry and Psihoyos supporters ask if that question is even germane to the issue at hand.

Another question. Can we really define what is happening to the dolphins as “right” or “wrong,” “good” or “evil?” We do live in what appears to be a random universe where survival of the fittest rules. Or to put it another way — if I’m bigger than you, I can take your candy and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The film subtly counters that as the planet’s highest life form, we should educate ourselves about who we are, our purpose, and how we are connected to and responsible for all other life forms.

Are we? Or is the late comedian George Carlin correct. His contention is that the earth has been here four billion years and we have the conceit to think we’re a threat? At any time it can decide it’s had enough and we’re gone. But that’s assigning personality to the earth and a problem akin to giving animals a personality.

And on the questions go in a huge circle.

This is why documentaries like The Cove are so important. The questions and answers found in them — and some of the reality shows that are now so popular on television — are much more interesting than catching a recycling of one of the seven basic plots by a film industry that is out of original ideas.

If you see The Cove for no other reason — see it for that.

Oh, by the way, after the film a few of you will discuss how to stop this awful practice over burgers at a local restaurant. Cows providing that meat were slaughtered in much the same way.

Something to ponder.

Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars

Rated PG-13 for very mature themes and extreme and disturbing violence. It plays Friday, Jan. 7th only at 8 p.m. at the Battelle Auditorium.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.